Washington: In order to better manage and engage with younger and older users, as well as to better target them with age-appropriate and relevant content and advertising, Instagram has been experimenting for years.
The Meta-owned platform is currently testing a new set of features designed to verify when people say they are 18 or older, including video selfies, vouching from adult friends, and providing an ID.
According to The Verge, creating an Instagram account requires that you be at least 13 years old, but the company has historically done little to enforce this requirement. It didn't even bother to ask new users their birthdate prior to 2019, much less make an effort to validate this information. However, Instagram has added an increasing number of age-verification features and ways to distinguish between younger users and adults after receiving criticism from privacy and child safety experts.
Instagram currently only asks users to confirm their age when teenagers attempt to edit their birth date to reflect that they are 18 or older. Users can send in images of different ID cards to prove their age, and as of right now, users in the US will also have two more options: social vouching and AI estimation.
Instagram will ask three of the user's mutual followers to confirm their age for the first method, social vouching. The reciprocal followers have three days to respond to Instagram's request and must be over the age of 18. The second technique, known as AI estimation, entails sending a video selfie to Yoti, a third-party business that employs machine learning to determine an individual's age.
The UK government and German digital regulators have both given their approval for the use of Yoti's technology, which is a well-known player in the field of the online age and ID verification. It calculates a target's age using a variety of facial cues. (However, the company admits that it is unsure of the precise nature of these signals. Wrinkles? Unbearable sadness in her eyes? Everything is combined.)
You can actually test out Yoti's system online right now (the company claims it doesn't keep any of the information you share with it) and see how accurate it is in the table below. The figures display Yoti's age estimation error rates for various age ranges, skin tones, and genders in years, as reported by The Verge.
Instagram uses a variety of AI-powered tools to attempt to estimate the ages of its users, not just this one. The business has been using automated systems to look for users under the legal age since last year. These tools scan data such as user-posted birthdays and the ages of their friend networks.
Therefore, if a user posts about celebrating their 17th birthday while claiming to be 20 years old, their account will be flagged and they may need to provide age verification. In addition to testing a language-analysis tool that will determine whether a user is an adult or a teen based on how they write, Instagram claims that it is working to add new data points to this system.